Fashion Designer Job Description

Fashion designers create and design clothing, accessories, footwear, and other apparel. They research fashion trends, select fabrics, sketch designs, and provide instructions on how the clothing should be assembled.

Many designers still sketch their designs by hand, but using computer aided design (CAD) software is becoming more widely used. This software allows designers to make changes to a design more efficiently than they're able to with a hand drawing. It also allows for a higher degree of accuracy.

Normally, it takes about six months for a design to move from the concept stage to production. This means that fall clothing lines are often designed in the spring (and vice versa). Styles change very quickly, so designers have to stay at least six months ahead of current trends at all times.

Since fashion is such a big industry, many designers choose to specialize and focus their careers on designing a specific type of product. Here are a few examples of common specialties:

Costume designers design costumes for movie and stage productions.

Accessory designers design items including jewelry, belts, hats, handbags, and sunglasses.

Clothing designers design apparel for men, women, and children. Many clothing designers choose to specialize in a particular type of clothing, such as suits, sportswear, maternity clothes, or intimate apparel.

Footwear designers design shoes and boots. These designers may specialize in shoes that perform a certain function. Running shoes, heels, casual shoes, and boots are examples of specialties.

Work Environment and Schedule

Most fashion designers work in-house, which means that they spend their time creating designs for a single company. In these cases, the designers may develop styles for big brands, but as individuals, their names are normally unknown outside of the industry.

About one third of fashion designers are self-employed. These designers normally freelance, designing one-of-a-kind apparel on a custom basis. Some very successful designers are able to establish their own clothing lines.

Nearly 75% of fashion designers work in New York or California. If you're considering a career in this occupation, moving to one of those locations will provide the best chances of employment.

Most fashion designers work full time, and are often required to work long hours to meet deadlines, prepare for fashion shows, or meet client demands.

Designers who do freelance or custom work are often at the mercy of their clients' schedules, and may need to work very irregular hours (including nights and weekends).

How to Become a Fashion Designer

There are rarely any formal education requirements for becoming a fashion designer, but college courses in color theory, design, and art can be hugely beneficial. Learning how to use computer aided design (CAD) software can also be a big help.

Many schools offer degrees in fashion design. If you're considering enrolling in a program, you should make sure that it's accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Though classes in fashion design will teach the basics, a strong portfolio of work is by far more important than formal training.

One great way to develop a portfolio is to work as an intern or assistant designer. These jobs provide opportunities for learning about textiles, design processes, and business models.

Don't expect to burst right onto the high fashion scene following your internship, though. Most entry level designers work as sketching assistants or patternmakers for years before they're considered for senior design positions.

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Employment Outlook

There are currently 21,500 fashion designers in the United States, with 670 new fashion designer job openings created each year.

Fashion Designer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Fashion Designer Salaries

Salaries by State

Hover over your state to get an idea of what Fashion Designers make in your area.

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Job seekers can use it while negotiating a salary.

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Overall Salaries

Fashion Designer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most fashion designers make between $44,500 - $90,100 per year, or $21.40 - $43.30 per hour.

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Fashion Designer Video Job Description

Salary and statistical data provided by the BLS.